MOTORSPORT: Two youngsters are making a big impact in the world of motorsport - on four wheels and two.
Howie Mainwaring, 17, has enjoyed a great debut British Superbikes season, while 10-year-old Alexander O'Sullivan continues to impress on the karting circuit. IAN BEDFORD catches up with the speedy duo.
HOWIE Mainwaring has a new racing machine on the top of his Christmas wish list.
The 17-year-old British Superbikes rookie is hoping to have a Suzuki underneath him when the season starts in the spring.
His first season in Superbikes as the youngest rider went according to plan, but he knows he will need a more competitive machine than the four-year-old Yamaha R1 he relied on this year if he is to continue to progress in the sport.
Howie, who lives in Frodsham, is optimistic his wish will come true in the new year with the continued support of Chester motorcycle dealer Bill Smith, a TT legend who believes his protégé has a big future in the sport.
'I think Suzuki is the way to go next season,' said Howie. 'We had some problems with the Yamaha, but we are working hard to get a bike, though we are struggling to find new sponsors.
'I haven't given up hope of getting a works ride next year, because I have had quite a lot of media exposure, especially on Sky Sports and some good feedback on my performances.
'It has been a big learning curve, but I am very happy with the way things have gone. I couldn't have asked for more considering the level of equipment at my disposal.'
Howie finished ninth privateer in the British Superbikes Championship, with a highest finish of fifth. As well as some mechanical problems he broke a bone in a wrist, but it didn't stop him competing.
He said: 'I could have done with more wet weather, which is always a leveller when you are competing against better machines. But it was such a dry summer, we hardly had any wet races.'
Howie has been helping his grandfather in repairing trucks during the racing close season, and spending five or six nights a week getting fit for the demanding schedules ahead.
He added: 'It is important I am properly prepared for the season, because I want to have that edge which may make all the difference on the circuit.
'It's surprising how demanding racing is physically, especially this year when it was so hot at times.'
Howie already has a fan club - he receives lots of letters every week during the season - and the membership fee for this includes hospitality at his races and merchandise.
Further information is available on his website howie13.com. Anyone interested in sponsoring Howie can get details by telephoning 01606 330591.
CHESTER schoolboy Alexander O'Sullivan experienced the highs and lows of motorsport at the Three Sisters Raceway in Lancashire last week.
The 10-year-old pupil of Abbey Gate Junior School had already secured the 2003 DKC WTP Championship, but took part in the final race of the season to maintain his pace ahead of testing for next year's WTP British National series.
Fastest of the WTP runners in the first heat, Alexander, who lives in Northop Hall, had an accident in the second heat when, to avoid another competitor, his kart left the road and slammed into the tyre barriers, twisting both front stub axles, breaking the nose cone and damaging the side pod on the left-hand side.
'It was a big impact, so I was lucky to get away with such a small amount of damage,' he said.
'I was fortunate we had two spare stub axles, otherwise I'd have been out.'
Rapid work by his mechanics had everything ready for the final less than an hour later. Alexander took an immediate lead and went on to win the 10-lap race by more than 10 seconds from Adam Lloyd-Hughes.
He is to receive his WTP Cadet trophy in January, and has started to test the Maranello Cadet kart chassis from Italy.
Alexander may be a works-supported driver in the 2004 WTP British series.